Blues crush Saints with complete away performance
Barkley, Lukaku & Kone spearhead counter-attacking display
Martinez’s men disciplined, well drilled & clinical
A brace from Romelu Lukaku and an inspired Ross Barkley helped Everton breeze past Southampton with a 3-0 victory at St Mary’s.
The Blues have often blown hot and cold on the south coast but Roberto Martinez’s men blew the hosts away with a complete away performance in Saturday’s early Premier League clash.
Lukaku rounded off a devastating counter-attacking move in the 22nd minute, a flowing attack which defined the Blues’ approach against Ronald Koeman’s men. Barkley released Arouna Kone from a Southampton corner and the Ivorian picked out Lukaku at the back post whose precise header found the top corner.
The Belgian added Everton’s second moments before half-time, wining the ball back before exchanging passes with Barkley and slotting first time past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Everton resisted Southampton’s advances in the second half and the unstoppable Barkley rounded off a perfect performance with a curling finish in-front of the travelling Toffees fans.
Blues at home playing away
After a season of struggle at Goodison Park during the 2014/15 campaign, it looked like little had changed following a disappointing opening day draw against Watford.
More toil was predicted ahead of the Toffees’ trip to St. Mary’s, a venue in which they had not tasted success since 2002. But Everton defied the odds, pundits and fans alike with a complete away performance.
With a solid defensive base, and John Stones in particular showing why he is so sought after, Everton did not need to expend energy pressing high up the pitch. Against more quality opposition, such tactics may have backfired, but Everton’s rearguard stood up to the hosts, soaking up periods of possession and hitting the Saints on the break.
Compact and resolute without the ball, the Toffees were quick and efficient when possession turned over. The opening goal typifying this approach, with Barkley picking up on a loose ball from a Southampton corner.
No sooner had he picked up possession, Lukaku and Kone burst ahead, giving the attack width and the midfielder options. Just as pleasing was the selfless running offered by Tom Cleverley and Brendan Galloway, who galloped the length of the pitch without touching the ball to support the attack. Southampton were overrun.
3 pronged attack, 3 goals, 3 points
While BT Sport’s line up graphic may have shown Everton set up in a defensive 4-5-1 formation, the reality was a far cry from the rigid David Moyes-era away line ups that brought many groans, and the occasional point.
Lukaku, Barkley and Kone picked up where they left off after the 63rd minute of Everton’s draw with Watford. Kone’s introduction last weekend and subsequent playing time has seen all five of Everton’s goals so far directed and executed by the trio.
Kone’s one goal and two assists is bettered only by Barkley and Lukaku’s two goals and one assist each, while the latter also laid on for Seamus Coleman who teed up Everton’s No 20 on Saturday.
The trio have shown more attacking threat and potency of any attacking Everton triplet in over a year and their contribution to yesterday’s outstanding performance and result cannot be overstated. Barkley barely needed a second glance to know that Lukaku was charging through the middle, his cute through ball teeing up the Belgian to put the Blues in control just before half-time.
All three were on top form on Saturday, playing with confidence and assurance, and producing moments of quality on which the result hinged. Keeping this trio fit and in form will pay dividends to Everton’s performances and results, no more so than away from home.
Martinez’s men kept their cool
They say you often have to ride your luck to get a result on the road, especially when you’re used to coming away with nothing to show for your efforts. But there was nothing lucky about Everton’s confidence-boosting win at St. Mary’s.
It was clear that Martinez had charged his men with precise instructions to defend only in their own half. Lukaku and co wasted no energy chasing defenders. But when the ball crossed the halfway line, disgusting green/khaki shirts flocked towards the man with possession; in numbers and with an intensity to disrupt any momentum.
Tim Howard was called upon to make a vital near post save moments before his side took the lead, but Everton’s defence was well marshalled by skipper Phil Jagielka, while his young partner Stones was imperious. Showing strength and decisiveness in the tackle, and his usual composure in possession, it’s obvious why pundits and fans alike are predicting the Yorkshireman to captain his country one day.
But to single players out is to do an injustice to those not named. The back five worked and repelled Saints attacks as an organised unit, while those in front of them aimed to disrupt the hosts’ usual flowing football with tireless enthusiasm.
Everton completed more interceptions (16 to 13) and more clearances (39 to 22) than their opponents. They also won more aerial duels (53% to 47%), and the fact that the Saints committed more fouls (11-10) adds weight to the narrative that while Everton’s game plan came together perfectly, the hosts’ contributed to their downfall through ill-discipline, picking up four yellow cards to Everton’s 2).
Fresh faces are still very much needed before the summer transfer window slams shut, but Blues can be reassured that Martinez has a young, talented first team at his disposal, capable of matching and beating the best when in form. What will reassure Blues even more is a flurry of activity which sees Everton add quality in reserve to this exciting first XI.